Finland passes new fertility legislation
Dr. Kirsty Horsey
Progress Educational Trust19 October 2006
The Finnish Parliament has voted in favour of new fertility legislation, after years of debate and delays. Until now, fertility treatment in Finland has been practised without a background of regulation, although many aspects have been self-regulated by treatment providers.
The key features of the proposed new legislation said that fertility treatment should only be performed by fertility clinics authorised by the Ministry of Health; treatments should be available for single women and lesbian couples, as well as to heterosexual couples; that there will be no age limit imposed on the treatment of women or men - decisions on whether treatment is medically indicated or not will be left to patients' doctors; gamete donors will be identifiable and their names kept on a register of donors, accessible by donor-conceived offspring when they reach the age of 18; and embryos currently in storage created using anonymous egg or sperm donations will either have to be used or destroyed within six months of the new law coming into force.
Most of the political debate focused on who should be allowed access to fertility treatment. The most controversial aspect of the legislation - that single women and lesbians should be able to receive treatment - was passed by 105 votes to 83, even though the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament had previously endorsed a more restrictive version of the law. It had stated that treatment should be restricted to heterosexual couples only. Christian groups demonstrated outside Parliament while the debates were carrying on - one group held prayer vigils and pressed for a child's 'right to have a father'; some proclaimed eternal damnation and the possibility of redemption. They were opposed by other groups supporting the rights of lesbian couples to create families, emphasising human rights and the importance of loving family relationships. Finland's Society of Queer Studies (SQS) said that lawmakers should take into account the fact that no scientific studies support the claim that only heterosexual families guarantee a healthy and balanced upbringing.
The new legislation now needs approval from the Parliament's Grand Committee, which will vote on Wednesday whether or not to approve the new law.
Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.